Monthly Archives: October 2012

Homemade Sun-dried Tomatoes

Here in Denver the weather is insane. It’s pretty common to have it be snowing one day & sunny in the 70’s the next but honestly, that’s one of the reasons I love it here so much! That & the fact that it’s sunny 99% of the time. Colorado actually has one of the highest rates of sunny days in the entire country! Since it’s so nice & sunny here I decided I wanted to make sun-dried tomatoes this summer. I’ve had an amazing crop of tomatoes this year in my new garden! I am so happy with how my new garden did. There are a few things I feel like I did right & I’ll share those tips for anyone interested in growing awesome tomatoes.

  • Use a whiskey barrel: Thanks to my dad, I was able to have a fantastically huge crop of tomatoes because I grew them in a make-shift whiskey barrel. Growing veggies in containers like this is definitely the way to go. The larger size allows plenty of room for the roots as well as giving you a place to create the perfect soil mixture without having to worry about the quality of the soil. Plus it keeps the moisture trapped within the walls of the barrel, reducing the need to water every day.You can see what the homemade whiskey barrel setup with the tomatoes growing in the picture below.
Tomatoes in the Whiskey Barrel

Tomatoes in the Whiskey Barrel

  • Feed your plants: I used a tomato food from Burpee.com called Tomato-Tone. It’s organic & all-natural so you don’t have to worry about chemicals getting into your food. I had four groups of plants, each group had 2-3 plants in it. I feed each group 3 tablespoons of Tomato-Tone every other weekend. From the very first feeding, the results were almost immediate! The plants started producing extra flowers within a few days of the feeding.
  • Prune like crazy: This tip is from my mom. If you haven’t read any of my older posts then you wouldn’t know that my parents are the most awesomest gardeners ever. Ok, maybe that’s a stretch, but they did with the Rocky Mountain News Home & Garden Denver Home Garden Contest & were pictured on the front page of the Lifestyle section sitting in between their happy little plants! I think what I’m trying to say is that my parents know what’s up when it comes to growing stuff. In regards to the tomato plants, my mom put it like this: tomatoes are really a vine-like plant. You basically want to nip off all the leaves & suckers near the bottom of the plant so the plant puts all its energy into producing plants. My mom drew me a little picture, which I don’t have anymore, but it showed that you leave the top 5 flower buds plus their suckers & pinch off everything below it. I didn’t really follow the 5 rule, I kind of just pinched off everything below a certain point & that seemed to work just fine. As they grew, I chose which suckers I wanted to let get bigger, depending on where there were located on the plant, how many suckers it already had, how big & healthy it looks. You start to get a feel for what needs to come off & what needs to stay after a few weeks. But I got such a fantastic crop this summer I’m definitely going to prune like that next summer. You can see in the picture below how it looks like there’s hardly any leaves, just tomatoes!
My Pruned Tomato Plants

My Pruned Tomato Plants

With the recent REALLY cold snap that lasted for one week in the beginning of October, the tomato season came to a sudden end. I went outside & harvested EVERYTHING I could off the tomato plants. My neighbors didn’t really harvest any of their tomatoes this summer so I picked all their plants too. I am going to make a spicy pepper mix with the green tomatoes (post will follow) but the red ones I didn’t really know what to do with. I REALLY wanted to can some tomatoes this summer but all I got around to were pickling some cherry tomatoes with garlic & purple basil. Most of the tomatoes I grew were cherry, thanks to the mystery plants donated by my mom this spring. Don’t get me wrong, I am SUPER happy I didn’t have to buy plants but I think next year I’ll add some different varieties. But on the bright side, all the extra cherry tomatoes ended up being perfect for sun-dried tomatoes. Now the last week of October isn’t the sunniest week around here, I probably would have been better off doing it in the 100 plus degree weather we had for three solid months this summer but better late than never!

I started off by speeding up the drying process in the over. I drizzled extra virgin olive oil on a big roasting pan. I spread the cherry tomatoes evenly over the pan.

Cherry Tomatoes in a Roasting Pan

Cherry Tomatoes in a Roasting Pan

I stuck them in the oven for about a half hour at 275 degrees. I also propped the oven door open because cooking tomatoes doesn’t mean they are getting dry. That’s another trick I learned from my mom since that what she does when she makes beef jerky. It allows the moist air in the over to escape & reduces the humidity inside. After they looked like they were starting to get  a little bit shriveled, I took them out of the oven.

Shriveled Tomatoes

Shriveled Tomatoes

I set them outside on my balcony on the rail where I thought they’d get the most sun during the day. I left them outside for 3 days. At that point they weren’t completely done but it was going to snow & that would have ruined them.

Tomatoes Drying in the Sun

Tomatoes Drying in the Sun

I brought them back inside & left them out on the table in the pan to finish. Every day I picked out the tomatoes that looked done so there wouldn’t be extra humidity in the pan (kind of like how the less clothes you have in the dryer the faster it gets done). Remember, you don’t want them bone dry, think raisins. They should be slightly soft & the test I used to determine if they were ready was if they felt solid between my fingers. If there was any mushiness then they still had some liquid left inside & needed more drying time.

Finished Sun-Dried Tomatoes

Finished Sun-Dried Tomatoes

As they got done, I stuck them in a mason jar with a lid one it, not sealed or anything, just air tight so they wouldn’t become dry & crumble to dust. After an extra 3 days the last of them were done. I ate one & they were really good! I can’t wait to cook with them!!!

Sun-Dried Tomatoes in a Mason Jar

Sun-Dried Tomatoes in a Mason Jar

 

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Knit Dress Ideas: Afternoon Reading Dress

Ok, I’m STILL looking at ModCloth for sweater dress ideas. I really like to use my own ideas when knitting things by hand. I usually follow a pattern, or at least use one as a starting point, but I’ve been trying to knit things on my own more & I see so many things I love! Then when I go to start knitting, I can never remember what it is I wanted to knit! I spend 99% of my time online drooling over yarn porn at Ravlery but they don’t really have a good place to put things like this so all the pretty pictures of beautiful expensive knit things are going to start getting posted here on my blog!

I found this so called “Afternoon Reading Dress” but I’m sure I won’t be reading anything in the afternoon while wearing it. It comes in a couple different colors but I like the blue the best. The other colors seem to have some weird pooling of the black flecks.

I think the darker base color of the yarn looks a lot better. When you have something knitted over a large area, like this dress, or even a sweater, the contrasting darker color can start to do weird things. When you keep the finished item small it doesn’t have the opportunity to create pools or lines. That’s one of the reasons I have problems with most variegated yarns. I love the colors & the combinations when it in the skein, it just looks weird once it gets knitted up certain ways. So by keeping the base color dark, the contrast isn’t as apparent so it doesn’t matter if it stripes or pools. Just to keep on babbling, one of the ways to get around that is to NOT knit in the round. By going back & forth across the rows, which is what you do when you make a seamed sweater, it breaks up the issues you get when knitting round & round. Sometimes that doesn’t work either & it really depends on the yarn, the pattern, the gauge & even when you start within the color cycles in any given skein. I knit up some BEAUTIFUL Dove Roving yarn that had some issues with the color variegation  I added a second yarn, held double, of a lace weight black & that kind of masked the color variations a little to give some color consistency throughout the stitches. It turned out beautifully & I’m planning on making a pullover with it soon. I learned that trick this summer with a cardigan I made with the yarn held double with two different colors. You can see an example of what it looks like here (this is different than the variegated yarn I was just talking about).

My Summer Sweater

My Summer Sweater

Anyways, back to the dress. Here’s a few pictures of it.

ModCloth: Afternoon Reading Dress (front)

ModCloth: Afternoon Reading Dress (front)

ModCloth: Afternoon Reading Dress (back)

ModCloth: Afternoon Reading Dress (back)

Some of the reviews complained of it being a little too see through. You can see the weight of the fabric in this photo here so maybe they just didn’t realize it (or something, I don’t get people sometimes)?

ModCloth: Afternoon Reading Dress

ModCloth: Afternoon Reading Dress

I really like the featherweight type knits. I’ve made quite a few over the summer & am completely in love with them. Yes,  I do wear a tank top or t-shirt underneath. But they are so comfortable & you can get really incredible drape with thin knits like this. You can also create shapes & form that you can’t get with thicker weight knits. Plus they don’t add bulk & are REALLY comfortable to wear while still keeping you warm. Alpaca is a great fiber to use when knitting with a light weight because even as a thin yarn, it still keeps you surprisingly warm. I used an alpaca silk blend yarn in that cardigan pictured above. I can not describe the feeling of that cardigan! You just have to feel it to experience how unique & soft it is.

Anyhow, back to the dress, AGAIN, I really dig the collar & how the buttons go around & over the shoulder. I also really dig the cute little pockets. I love pockets. I also love hoods, but this one doesn’t have a hood. That’s ok though, because at least it has pockets.

ModCloth: Afternoon Reading Dress (pockets)

ModCloth: Afternoon Reading Dress (pockets)

I’m still looking around for a great sweater dress pattern & am making observations like these, saving pictures of dresses I like, so hopefully I can come up with something soon so I can make it while the weather is still cold!

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Knit Dress Ideas: New Angle Dress

For how much I hate shopping, I do a lot of clothes scoping online. I think it’s more of a voyeuristic enjoyment, where I can say “oh that outfit is so cute” & look at all the shopping everyone ELSE does as opposed to really getting myself to the mall & looking at clothes in person. Plus when I peep other people’s style I can get more ideas for outfits & styles I’d never come up with myself. I’m always a big fan of getting other people’s opinions on any kind of creative endeavor even if I don’t end up agreeing with any of it. It’s kind of like if someone says “good god that outfit is really out there!”  but that’s what I was going for, even if the other person hates it, that confirms it that I want to wear it cause “really out there” is exactly what I was going for. Does that even make sense?

So today I was checking out some really weird sweater dresses on ModCloth. I like the idea of sweater dresses, I’ve just never had one before. Now that I think about it, I don’t really have a lot of dresses anyways. But sweater dresses work better for me than regular dresses, they seem more comfortable, less girly & more wearable. Plus since I obsess love knitting so much I’ve been thinking about making some one. Here’s the cutest one I found called the New Angle Dress. I’m not much of a red loving person (I refuse to wear red) but I really like the brown one.

ModCloth: New Angle Dress

ModCloth: New Angle Dress (front view)

ModCloth: New Angle Dress (back view)

ModCloth: New Angle Dress (back view)

But I think the one that really caught my eye was this picture here, styled with a little off-the-shoulder action! I’m really digging that whole showing a little shoulder Flash Dance 80’s style everybody has right now. See?

ModCloth: New Angle Dress

ModCloth: New Angle Dress

This looks like it could be knit up at a fairly loose gauge using a thin fingering or sport weight yarn. The only down side to knitting this is that it would be BORING! Look at that, it’s what, like 6 square yards of stocking stitch?! But I’m putting this up because I do love the shape of it, even if it was shorter & turned into a sweater it would be super cute.  I’m going to stew on this one for a while. . .

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Shoe Issues

I’ve written about updating my look a little & one of the BIGGEST problems I’m having is a serious lack of shoes. I see these girls online or on TV that go buy shoes, I love shoes, blah blah blah & I’m thinking how the HECK can you be so obsessed with freaking shoes? Honestly, forcing myself to buy a pair of booties last week at Target was the first time I’ve purchased shoes for any reason other than necessity. I’ve looked at things online & thought “Oh those are cute” but would choke on my bile when I looked at the price tag. My goal right now with my wardrobe is to create a closet that I love. Please don’t misinterpret that the wrong way: I am NOT a shopper. I do NOT go to the mall, I do NOT go clothes shopping. I hate it. I usually buy my clothes at the skate shop or when I’m at Target to buy groceries. It kills me to spend money on clothes. I can drop a hundred bucks on yarn without blinking an eye but it hurts to spend $40 on a pair of shoes. I know, I’m weird. Back to wardrobe building, I’m using a few guidelines pretty religiously. Here they are, in order:

  1. I freaking love it! If I go somewhere & see something I absolutely LOVE, I’ll buy it. I’m putting this as number one because it rarely happens & I’ve learned that if I pass something up I really really loved, I usually regret it. The one caveat is it also must be within my budget (I can hear the ‘AWWWW!!! MAN!!!” now)
  2. I really need it! I’ve learned socks only last a year or two. Same thing with tank tops & heavily worn t-shirts. These things need to be replaced on a regular basis & I hate doing it. I also hate buying bras so those fall under this category too.
  3. I need it to complete an outfit. I don’t know how many times I’ve gotten a really cute top only to get home & realize I need a tank top in a color I don’t have to go underneath or have a tank top but it hangs down 4 inches below the edge of the shirt. I went through my clothes, made a list & stopped by Walmart to buy said pesky tank tops in the necessary sizes & colors.

This number 3 is also where 99% of my shoe issues are coming from . That’s where I was going with that really long rambling side note, I was getting to my shoe problem. I’ve been writing down my thoughts on clothes for a few days now to try to come up with some ideas for outfits. Once I know what kind of shoes I want, I look around on the internet to see if I can find something that will work. I was looking on ModCloth for shoes. They have cute stuff but it’s really hit or miss & think some of their stuff is super overpriced. I’d rather just go down to the vintage stores on Broadway & get something REAL instead of an overpriced knockoff. But don’t get me wrong, I’m not knocking them hard. I do like their site. BEHOLD, my latest shoe find:

ModCloth: Step into My Office Wedge

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I Didn’t Like How I Looked This Morning

I’ve been trying to put a little more effort into how I look these days. IDK if it’s the fact I don’t have a man around or maybe I just get sick of looking like a piece of poop or maybe I’ve been learning that I feel a million times better about myself when I feel good about how I look. I’m going to insert a soapbox comment here so brace yo-self: Notice how I used the word “good” in that sentence, not nice or pretty or whatever. Everyday when I get up I have a different idea of what I want to look like, sometimes professional when I need to go to work, sometimes ultramodern ubersheek (work), sometimes I want to look like kind of a hipster (but not too much), sometimes pretty, sometimes hardcore, sometimes super punk rock, etc. Another thing is just because I like how I look doesn’t mean anyone else will, I am a unique person with a unique sense of style. I don’t ever really look the same twice, even if I tried. I put an outfit on this morning that I thought looked really cute last week but I just wasn’t feeling it this morning! I have no idea why that happens, it just does. I usually get these amazing ideas of what I want to wear when I get ready in the morning but then, later when I’m trying to buy clothes, it seems like I can’t really figure out what I wanted. Hence the clothes journal! If I get a super awesome idea for something, I write it down. I’ve been sketching out stuff too, if I have that solid of an idea. The other reason I’ve been doing this is because I knit. Let me tell you this, the amount of time it takes to create a sweater is RIDICULOUS!!! And lately, I’ve been making an awful lot of sweaters that aren’t turning out how I want them to. Part of the inspiration I’ve found is from a select few lovely ladies whom I’ve been stalking  following on Ravelry. It seems like EVERY SINGLE thing they make is gorgeous & not just because the sweater is nice but because it fits & flatters them like nobody’s business. That’s the amazing thing about knitting is you can create anything you can think of & create not just the shape of the piece, but even the fabric, color, texture, every aspect of that piece of clothing is created from scratch, stitch by stitch. I’d like to take my knitting, & as a result of that my image as well, to the next level of amazingness. So here’s a few notes on my thoughts (honestly this is more for me than anything but if you’ve somehow stumbled across this post hopefully it can inspire someone else too).

My hair does weird things. I do need to do something to it 99% of the time to get it to look good. I’ve started spending a few minutes in front of the mirror with some texturizer & a bottle of hairspray. It does help! However, once my cut has grown out it starts to look funky in the back on the sides. I’m trying to think of some things to do with my shorter haircut.

It used to be really REALLY long. Then in June I cut it all off. It was about half way down my back at that point. I think I cut about a foot & a half off.

My New Hairdo

My hair is naturally dark brown but I’ve been dying it a copper-y color for about 2 years now. I really like it but I feel like I’m ready to try experimenting a little. This picture here shows the color it’s been for a while now.

My Red Hair

I think the last time I dyed my hair, about 3 weeks ago, I used too much developer. It came out really dark & not as red as I wanted. I also haven’t gotten a cut for about 6 weeks now & it’s driving me nuts. However, this past week it’s gotten long enough that it’s doing different things now, you know the point where your hair starts to outgrow the cut maybe 3-4 weeks into it & it just looks stupid then 2 weeks later it’s past that point & starts to look like a totally different do? Maybe it’s just me cause  my hair grows at an abnormally fast rate. Some people think it would be really cool if their hair grew that fast but it sucks cause you have to get your hair cut at least once a month to keep it looking like it’s supposed to. Anyways, before I go in to get it cut again, I may try some coloring first. I was checking out this website abeautifulmess.com (honestly, sometimes I have no idea how I get to these sites on the internet sometimes, it’s like 20 minutes later I’m engrossed in these weird articles when I started out trying to check my email!) I saw this girl’s hair color & now I’m intrigued!

A Beautiful Mess: Incredible Hair!

Burgundy is a hard color for me to pull off. It reminds me of about 10 years ago when everybody wanted that purple-y burgundy color & it looked good on >1% of the chics rocking it! However, this color above has those beautiful dark cherry highlights, not purple. Aha! I just gave myself a good frame of reference there. I’m looking for a dark cherry color!

I also love coppery orange. The other half of the duo had a beautiful shade, see below.

A Beautiful Mess: Beautiful HAIRDO!

I’ve done my hair this color before too & I really, really loved it. I remember a friend of a friend did the color, which was awesome because I usually do my own color & can’t afford professional process but I love it when other people do my hair & have cool ideas I would have never thought of, when she got done with it there were blonde & red highlights. It was in November & she told me I looked like a festive cornucopia! Ha.

One more thing, sorry! After reading through this amazing beautiful website I ran across the Makover Story section. Totally reminds me of what I’m trying to do right now! I’m trying to do a lot of different things in my life but they’re all getting me to the same goal, living the life I want to live! Creating real lasting change takes time but I’ve learned making small consistent steps seems to be working for me. It also helps because I feel like if I mess up it’s not the end of the world. I feel like it’s harder to restart a new habit after a mess up than to start something fresh. Anyways! I really love this one here called Kelsie’s Story, she is totally wearing stuff I’d love.

Makeover Story: Kelsie

Another one I thought was super cute was Sarah’s Makeover story!

Makeover Story: Sarah

So enough gushing about people I don’t know on the internet! I’m going to go shopping for hair dye this weekend to see if anything strikes my fancy & hopefully will have a new do tomorrow!

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